The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)

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So here we are at the end of the Death Wish series. Like part four before it, this one was given to us on VHS from our friend Kenner at Movies in the Attic, and you can go there to see what he thinks of all the Death Wish movies. Let's see how things wrapped up.

Death Wish V is the only one in the series to use a Roman numeral in the title, and stars our man Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, this time living in a New York suburb as an architect professor under an assumed name. He seems to have given up his old Death Wishing ways, until his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend (Michael Parks) decides he doesn't want her testifying against him, so he sends someone to cut up her face, and when that isn't enough, he just kills her. Why he doesn't just do that to start with is beyond us, but whatever, now Kersey is finally pissed and finally taking his gun back out of the safe (he like took it out earlier, then put it away for whatever reason). He's coming for Parks and his gang, one by one, and he won't stop until they're all dead.

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This is a tale of two movies. The opening is atrocious. First off, it's really depraved, almost like a mild torture porn flick or something. People get all kinds of carved up and have hands and faces put into steam presses and whatnot. Who is the weirdo that made this movie? Second, even worse, Bronson is just driving around watching people, doing absolutely nothing. He pulls his gun out, so we think he's ready to get down to it, but apparently he puts it away, because when the baddies come by to kill off his girlfriend, the best he can do is fend them off with a potted plant, before he does a swan dive off a ledge, twenty feet into a pile of garbage. Yes, that's what we want from a Bronson flick, good work out of you movie. Finally, even better work, the whole deal with the girlfriend. Either you cut her face up, or you kill her, but you can't do both. Once you've spent that nickel, you're done, after that it's bad writing. So here we are, almost an hour in, and the movie has utterly sucked so far. Then, Bronson finally starts kicking ass, and it's pretty cool, but for me, it's not only too little too late, but a reminder of how much this movie was sautéed in wrong sauce to begin with. For me, the last was by far the worst.

The hardest part about this one was how much I wanted Bronson to kick some ass. Seriously, I'm not paying to watch Bronson drive around in a Jeep Cherokee and spy on people, much less to watch him run around his apartment scared because for some reason or another he put his damn gun away when he knew the bad guys would be coming for his woman at some point. I know they were trying to flesh out some idea that he wanted to let the law handle things, but we don't watch Bronson flicks in 1994 to see him conflicted about whether or not he wants to go Death Wishing again. Jesus Christ, we're watching a movie called Death Wish V: The Face of Death, not Death Wish V: Conflicted About Whether or Not He Wants to Death Wish. Just get the frickin' gun out and start mowing the suckers down!

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And even worse about this is how great a baddie Michael Parks was. Because this takes so long to get going, his crew has this weird vibe where we're told how powerful he is, but he barely has any men, and it doesn't take long for Bronson to take them out-- because, after the first near hour of blah, he doesn't have a lot of time left. One of the interesting things about this one is that, not only does it have a Roman numeral in the title, but it's the first one with a true main baddie. While Parks definitely hits it out of the park, the film itself leaves a little to be desired, which is too bad.

This had a bunch of other people in it. Lesley-Anne Dawn played his girlfriend. She's done a lot of Soap and TV work, but she had a small part each in the Seagal flicks Mercenary of Justice and Today You Die. That might be because her husband, Donald E. FontLeRoy directed them. Robert Joy, who was in the Lambert flick Resurrection, plays Parks's crazy hit man. Great character actor Saul Rubinek plays the local DA, and another great character actor, Miguel Sandoval, plays his buddy. Finally, this was directed by Allan Goldstein, whom you may know from 2001: A Space Travesty, the Bosworth flick Virus, and one I remember from the mid-90s called Synapse with MTV VJ Karen Duffy. His direction was pretty solid-- it was his turn as co-writer that left a lot to be desired.

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Erica Fairfield played Bronson's future step-daughter, and I was thinking, since this was made in 1994, if she had been in my high school I would've thought she was pretty hot because she's always in a skirt, and back then, girls only wore skirts-- at least in my high school-- on a special occasion. I wasn't sure, though, if she was my age or not, because she looked a little younger than 14 or 15, which is what I would've been around the time period this was shot. So I looked her up, and it turns out she's much younger than me. I was born on April 1st of '79, and she was born on April 4th.

All right, before this gets weird, let's wrap it up (though it's a weird concept anyway, watching movies from when you were younger with girls in them who are younger but are really your age too). For me, this is by far my least favorite of the Death Wish films, and a big part of that is the lack of any positive action on Bronson's end early on. The cover shouldn't be an image of him holding a gun, it should be him peering through the window of a Jeep Cherokee while other people do things, because that's the whole first hour or so. Despite a decent ending, this ultimately too sautéed in wrong sauce.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109578/

16 comments:

  1. Just to clear it up, they smashed her face against the glass, because she wouldn't testify, then she got killed because she still decided to testify.

    No worries though, I still like this one, and it figures we have to disagree once in awhile. I don't think it's sauteed in the wrong sauce at all, I think it's more of a Bronson having to become a vigilante again, indeed this is the only one that feels like he came out of retirement.

    I also like this one better because Bronson's vengeance angle seems more personal than it does in 2,3 and 4. I like the soccer ball scene, I also like the acid bath.

    In anycase, I guess we will agree to disagree.

    I've noticed you dislike a hard edged revenge flick. Like Wake Of Death, Pray For Death and Death Wish V. Like I said though, I disagree but it's still a good review nonetheless.

    That said, I still you're wrong and that a rewatch will win you over but that still remains to be seen.

    I think too, that because Bronson was 72 is why he had less action and such.

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  2. I enjoyed this film as well(espeically the poisoned cannoli scene copped from Godfather III) it was better then part 2 which I found a tad dissapointing.

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  3. Just to clear up, she had her face smashed into the mirror to get her to not talk, because the gangsters found out about Bronson talking to the DA on her behalf, and then she was killed because she didn't take the face carving warning. Whatever, the point is as a plot device, the writers are spending the same nickel twice, which is bad stuff.

    The biggest thing for me is, I can't see how you can like this one, but give two and four a hard time, when at least they have Bronson kicking more ass instead of driving around in a Jeep Cherokee for the better part of an hour.

    And those three you mention that I dislike I don't dislike because they have a hard edge, I dislike them because I thought they were poorly made. Pray For Death may have had the best action and best upside, but overspent the same nickel worse than this one; and Wake of Death had bad MTV edits and a half-hour chunk of nothing happening. Don't pull that "you don't like a hard edge" crap.

    You want to get into flicks with a hard edge, try Unforgiven. That one uses the same woman's face cut up angle, but infinitely better. Eastwood spends that nickel once, then he moves on and convinces us to invest more. Had he killed her ten minutes later, I'd have been annoyed with him too, because it's like, what's the point? Another one I'll bring up is The Killer. He blinds a chick at the beginning of that. Again, another nickel they don't spend twice.

    Listen, no matter how many rewatches of this I do, it'll never change the fact that a good chunk of this had Bronson doing absolutely nothing. Hey, I loved the poisoning, the soccer ball, and the acid bath too, but I didn't love the potted plant, the stuntman swan dive, the Jeep Cherokee driving, and the constant phone calls-- Christ, Bronson spends more time on the phone in this than a teenage girl. Maybe you need to rewatch this and see how harsh it is.

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  4. See, I love a good movie discussion. Okay, I see what your point is, and I just saw this a few monthes ago. (I sent you the VHS cause I have the DVD)

    In all honesty, I like 4 better just because it's bad action, but in terms of quality, acting, directing, budget and special effects 5 is handedly better made. Also as for screen writing, 4 had some really bad scripting, mainly how Kay Lenz (who I found to be the hottest Death Wish chick) is there to talk about wanting Bronson to commit then disappears until the final 15 minutes. Also how the story doesn't have any plot. This one has plot, even if I think it takes too long to get Bronson in action.

    Death Wish 2, I will grant no mercy on. That rape scene is by far worse than anything in Death Wish 5, hands down. Not only are we treated to a rape scene that is just unpleasant, then we are treated to a rape on a comatose woman which is just ugh. Then we are treated to yet another rape this time as her husband is held back by the bad guys. This to me is worse, because the torture scene with the press was unplesant granted, as was the mirror scene, but it was to show the whole cliche of the mobster giving a warning and then following through on it. Which wasn't as gross to me.

    Also, the thing I hated about Death Wish 2, was that while Death Wish 5 took time to get to some memorable over the top scenes, 2 has none. The best part "Do you believe in Jesus" is lame compared to anything in 3,4 and 5. Also Death Wish 2, has way too much Bronson in mourning and spending time with his girlfriend, then having wine with her, going to work, cutting wood and then renting an apartment and so on. So while I can grant you that Death Wish 4, cannot on Death Wish II. (By the way I think Death Wish II has a roman numeral)

    Last but not least, 5 has a way better villain than Death Wish II did, and was a far better character. (Which you acknowledge.) Plus his ending is great, and he was good enough to hold my attention through the slow beginning, as did Bronson.

    As for a rewatch, for the record I thought the movie was a 2 star rating on the first viewing. Then it kind of grew on me, of course I think it's the second half. For me the second half is what I like.

    One other thing is that I thought Bronson actually cared about his fiance in this chapter. I mean the way hotter Kay Lenz gets blown away right in front of him and he doesn't even flinch. In three the D.A gets blown up in the car and he doesn't seem to care, his girlfriend leaves him in 2 and he doesn't care. In 1 he cares and in 5 he cares.

    Also, with the exception of DW2, I like anything Bronson. I'm a Ozzy fan, and I like everything Ozzy even his duet with Lita Ford, Bronson is pretty much the same way.

    As for this one, I give it a thumbs up, with some reservation mind you (I can't deny the first half is slow) but it's well made (the filmmaking, I mean) and Bronson, Parks and the second half are just enough to win me over.

    Although in honesty, in terms of watchability it would go 3,4,5 and 2. (1 always gets the most props because it has that fascination angle)

    Also, I think the face in the mirror thing, is to set up a contrast so when Bronson pushes Parks in a cannister of acid and his face burns off, it's more poetic. Whatever the case... we'll have to file this one with the Story Of Ricky, Pray For Death, The Silencer, Wake Of Death, Until Death (I still say it's solid) and Substitute 4.

    To be fair, I disliked Out For A Kill (actually almost all the Seagal ones Except Belly Of The Beast, Pistol Whipped, Urban Justice and A Dangerous Man) Shootfighter and Death Wish 2.

    We gotta disagree once in awhile, but the weird thing is we agree at least 96% of the time. Like Assassination Games, Killing Machine, Heatseeker and many many more.

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  5. Also for hard edge, I mean more like that you're squeamish. Like In Hell (which by the way I didn't like either) drew a venomous review for content. Um, I know there is more. Like I thought Resurrection was actually a well done serial killer movie, (haven't seen it in years) but you didn't like it cause you thought it was grisly. Also that movie where Lara Harring dies. Also there was Undefeatable which you liked but cited. This what I mean by brutal edge, also Full Contact if you remember had the same thing with you. That was all I meant.

    Hard edge was the wrong word. Also I hate to draw in an even more debate, but I actually think Unforgiven is overrated. It's a good movie (and way better filmmaking than this one by far) but I don't like that it has classic status, when Outlaw of Josey Wales, High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider are overall in my opinion better. Also quick note, Saul Rubinek and the fat guy who gets hit by a car were both in that movie, and likewise a woman gets her face mutilated. Am I clever at drawing connections or what?

    The thing is Unforgiven is one of those movies I respect more than I like. Sort of like The Searchers.

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  6. Great write-up. Loved Michael Parks and some of the silly kills that Kersey thinks up (like the poisoned cannoli and the soccer ball.)

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  7. I grant you that both 2 and 4 do the same thing this one does in overspending the same nickel, 2 by raping and killing the daughter who was on the road to recovery, and 4 by killing of Lenz-- and I agree that she's the hottest of the Death Wish women. I guess for me, I'm not sure why it's forgivable here, but mean spirited in part 2, and poor writing in part 4. To me, it's bad in all of them, but maybe worst here, because it takes what's bad about it in 2 and what's bad about it in 4 and puts them together.

    The early parts of the movie didn't make me squeamish as much as they were weird. The hands in the steamer on its own wouldn't have been bad, but in like a 15 minute span we have all kinds of stuff like that, making it a bit much for me, like, what is the matter with this dude who thinks of this stuff?

    With the movies you're listing, again it's more bad writing than being squeamish, other than Undefeatable, because I thought Sting Ray gouging out a woman's eyes before he kills her was a bit much. Resurrection wasn't so much the grisliness, it was that that grisliness felt like a bad Seven rip-off, like they were just trying to amp things up to get to that Seven level.

    The Laura Herring movie you're talking about is Final Payback, and the big issue I had with her death was that Greico pretty much forces her to help him, and then she's killed helping him, so where does that leave us as far as rooting for Greico as a hero? And it was mean spirited almost the way killing Kersey's daughter was in part 2.

    Maybe that's what you're looking for. I have a low tolerance for mean spirited events in my movies.

    One thing I agree with both you and Ty on is that the Bronson kills were great, and Michael Parks was great too. Like I said, it's a tale of two movies.

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  8. I side with Kenner. I love this one. I can understand why you didn't dig it. For me, the early scenes show that Kersey has moved past his need to go vigilante at the drop of a hat. He WANTS to let the law handle it. Alas, since this is a Death Wish movie, we know that can only last for so long.

    I like too that they played up his age in this one. Bronson can't run around blowing scum away like he did in DW3. Instead, he's got to think up clever gags and let the exploding soccer ball, poisoned cannolli, pool of acid, etc. do the job for him.

    Oh yeah, and Parks RULES in this movie.

    Special Note: I saw this in the theater went it first came out and it was a blast.

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  9. Fair enough. As always, I love a good discussion. I can't argue the 4 angle, and you even bring up a good point of combining the bad elements. The thing is, this one might do the same things but it doesn't do them as painfully as 2. Once again as for 4, the craftsmanship of directing, production value and so on are what cost 4, even though I'd rather watch 4. Also I think a big reason Bronson doesn't jump into action until half way, is Bronson was 72. By the way, has there been anyone older than that when becoming a 1 man army? I mean Rambo, Sly was Bronson's age at Death Wish 3. (even younger)

    I will say this, I'm already going to call it and say that you are going to give Delta Force 2 with Chuck Norris a very bad review. (Mainly because you will review it eventually due to it making 6 million at the box office and it being from Cannon) Because it is much worse on that angle. To be fair I think the movie is piss rotten (the action as you'll note is interminable and badly staged) but Delta Force 2 even had me sort of thinking overkill.

    Another one is The Exterminator which is one of the classics of the genre(Don't ask me why, I hate it) Once again this features a hero who kills people in disgusting ways who don't necessarily deserve it, plus it has a really rephrensible torture scene, followed by a brothel shooting and it all is really quite repulsive.

    Another movie that I think you'll have an even worse problem with than here is Bronson and Kinjite:Forbidden Subjects. Once again it's actually quite unpleasant but Bronson's persona and charisma got me through it, it's just that I can totally understand if you gave it a really nasty review. Also it's cannon and made I think 3 mill. There is some really inappropriate and tasteless stuff in there but it did do a lot of the good guy vs bad guy angle right.

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  10. Let's start with that idea that Kersey had moved on and wanted to let the law handle things: great idea, not for a Death Wish film though. I didn't come here for him to have a crisis of conscience, I came here for him to kill baddies, and I don't care if he shoots them, wraps them in saran wrap, or puts cyanide in their cannolis, I just want to see him get shit done. I had no problem with the second half of this film, I just wish more of the first half was like the second half.

    Funny you mention Exterminator, because I'm planning to finally take the plunge, not this week coming up, but the week after.

    When you think of a movie that did the mean spirited thing right, it's the first Death Wish. That home invasion and rape was horrible, but very necessary to what the rest of the film gave us. In that sense, I think the sequels tried and failed to recapture what made part 1 from the standpoint of Kersey's motivation. It's one of those things that can be done well inside of the story, or done well in a exploitation setting, but when it falls in the middle it just doesn't work for me.

    And I loved that you saw this in the theater Video Vacuum. I remember it advertised on TV when it came out, but I don't think it played near me.

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  11. Love ALL the movies. It's like the ROCKY franchise, sure people have their favourites...but they work great as a progressive series (I love ROCKY V...so shoot me)

    DEATH WISH V seems like a fair progression to me, in that it really did seem that Bronson was showing his age and slowing up. The fact that he was still willing to trust in the police AFTER his girlfriend had been disfigured, had a (ever-so slight) realistic edge to it. Yeah DW5 lacks the balls out action of 3 & 4, but I think it's a good movie in it's own right. It had a similar vibe to the Chuck Norris vehicle HIT-MAN (and not just because of Michael Parks)

    Also, I never understand why people complain about the 'Unpleasant' rape scenes in DW2...as if there's such thing as a 'Pleasant' rape scene? The rape scene was nasty...because rape IS nasty. There's been nastier (I'm sure) but the more vicious the crime, the more vicious the payback...and that's why I love DW2 (and about 80% of Michael Winner movies in general)

    Rant over (good review though)

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  12. Obviously all rapes are bad, what made the rape and death of his daughter in part two particularly bad is that the daughter was already raped in the last one, and she was still recovering, and then the movie just goes along and rapes and kills her again-- they already spent that nickel in the first movie. Plus, the way she died was pretty chintzy, jumping out a window and onto a spiked metal fence. Raping and killing the maid was enough, but having the daughter recover just to kill her is bad writing, and mean spirited. The same is true about the girlfriend in part 5. Having her face cut up was enough, but what's the point of doing that if five minutes later she's going to be killed anyway? Why not just kill her off? It's that kind of thing that irks me, spending the same nickel becomes redundant and shows a lack of creativity.

    And I appreciate that you dug the review even though you disagreed with it. You guys all come from a place of passion when it comes to these films, and I really appreciate your opinions and insight, and it's as much for you guys that I'm reviewing these, so I'm glad you've contributed to the conversation.

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  13. Yeah, it's been a while, but I do remember being surprisingly disappointed by this film. Great write up. From what I remember, that's how I felt (faaaaar to boring in the first half). I don't have the will to watch it again to provide any other points. :)

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  14. Even if he spent too much of the film on the phone or driving round watching stuff, you got to give it up for Bronson pulling off an action role at the age of 73.

    It makes me think is there anyone around today who could end up carrying on longer?

    Seagal is hitting 60 imminently. Stallone is 65. Can either of them overtake Bronson as the oldest bad ass in town?

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  15. I thought DEATH WISH V looked like a cheap (very cheap) television movie. As much as the director wants us to believe this takes place in New York, it is clearly not shot on location in New York. The violence is really toned down to an almost PG-13 level. The face smashing against the mirror could have been better - somehow I think Michael Winner would have made us feel (and see) that kind of think more strongly. After the face smashing, Leslye Anne Down didnt really look as if she had her face smashed against a mirror. And what about the fat guy who had a power saw (or something) slicing into his side - he was able to get up and walk out and didnt look worse for wear.

    Michael Parks is insanely great in this, but kudos to Robert Joy, who is a pretty great henchman; he has some personality at least (which is more than can be said of the other guys in Parks' crew).

    Its a tribute to Bronson and his persona and his charisma that I dont really question that this septugenarian can kick butt at this late stage in his life (shacking up with Leslye Anne Down is somewhat harder to believe). Although the stunt double is usually easy to spot.

    I am not a fan of the cinematic auteur known as Allan Goldstein - his films (including this one) are usually piss poor. DEATH WISH V s the least of the DEATH WISH sequels (its neither outrageously sleazy like DEATH WISH 2 or an outrageously over the top cartoon like DEATH WISH 3 or even competently directed & staged as DEATH WISH 4.

    Now, someone mentioned KINJITE, one of my all time favorite Bronson flicks. Bronson kicks major underage sex trafficing butt (and in one memorable scene, uses a dildo on some criminal's butt).

    You. must. review. KINJITIE. soon. pls.

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  16. Sounds good Hoaks2, I'll suffer the first half so you don't have to-- that's what I'm here for.

    I don't think anyone can dethrone Bronson as the best oldest badass ever. Maybe Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino-- he was 78 there, and pretty badass.

    I think we've done enough Bronson for a little while. We'll let some other people have some shine before we start thinking about Kinjite or any others.

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